Metzora: Making a Zimun before the Afikoman

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Afikomen Bag
07 Apr 2011

In general, making a zimun (invitation to grace after meals) is considered a decisive declaration that the meal is over. Therefore, after saying “Let us make a blessing” he is not allowed to eat more of the meal unless he makes a new blessing on the food. (SA OC 179:1.)

What happens if someone makes such a zimun before eating the afikoman on Pesach? The Avi HaEzri writes that the ruling is unchanged: on the one hand, he must eat the afikoman; on the other hand, he cannot do so without making a new blessing. Therefore, he is required to wash again and make a new hamotzi blessing on the afikoman.

The Itur agrees that it is forbidden to eat any more matza without washing and saying a new blessing, but he writes that this is unnecessary. The last matza that a person ate during the meal can be considered his afikoman (assuming it was shmurah matza).

However, the Shulchan Arukh rules like Rabbeinu Peretz who explained that even after making an invitation to grace, a person does not have to make a new blessing. He can go ahead and eat the afikoman and make grace afterwards as usual. (SA OC 477:2. All opinions are cited in Tur OC 477.)

The surprising basis for this ruling is a seemingly unrelated rule relating to a guest. Although a householder puts an end to his meal by making a zimun, a guest does not. The reason is that a guest is not in control of the meal; only the householder knows what courses were planned and when they will be served. He, not the guest, decides when the meal begins and when it ends. (SA OC 179:2. We learned this ruling in the daf yomi this past week, Berakhot 42a. Rabbeinu Peretz’s ruling is brought down in the Tosafot there.)

This rule reflects the guest’s honor, but also his dependence. It is the responsibility, but also the prerogative, of the host to decide what to feed the guest; the guest cannot take care of himself, since nothing in the house belongs to him. The Talmud urges the guest to recognize the honor he receives and acknowledge that the host exerted himself solely for the guest’s comfort. (Berakhot 58a.) But they also indicate that the guest should follow the instructions of the host. (Tractate Kalla chapter 9.)

Rabbeinu Peretz explains that all of us are merely guests in this world, eating from the table of Hashem. Since He decided that the seder meal has an additional course – the matza of the afikoman – our zimun is of no relevance, and the meal has not ended.

The world does not belong to us but rather to its Creator, and we are only visiting here for a short time. We are completely dependent on HaShem, and He in turn gives us a dignified livelihood. However, we should not make the mistake of thinking that we are the masters and the world merely serves us. Our decisions, while significant, are not decisive, for “Man proposes and God disposes”. It is our responsibility to acknowledge the wonders of creation which HaShem makes available to us, and to follow His instructions to the best of our ability.

Rabbi Asher Meir is the author of the book Meaning in Mitzvot, distributed by Feldheim. The book provides insights into the inner meaning of our daily practices, following the order of the 221 chapters of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.